Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sabbath Moments - Quirks

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. These are the moments when we find the sacred in the ordinary and "let go and let God".

Life is often humorous and I thank God for those "moments of laughter" he inserts into our lives. The other day my daughter was taking a bath and I heard the bathroom door open and then close. Wondering what she was up to, I opened the bathroom door to find her mopping the floor, which is unusual enough, and stark naked, at that. I asked her why she was mopping and she told me that she had gotten water all over the floor and decided to save me the work of having to clean it up. I thanked her sweetly, closed the door, and tried to stifle my giggles at the funny sight she made. I was both amused and touched by her thoughtfulness (getting her to clean ANYTHING is usually a struggle).

I meditated on grace a lot this week. Grace is a funny thing. It never quite works as we would expect it to. I wrote a bit about this in my last post. I'm often puzzled by the different avenues of approach God uses to help people grow and it often doesn't make sense to me until after he's finished. I'm coming to realize that God is very accepting of our human nature, including our individual "quirks" and peccadilloes. He is not seeking to so much change what makes us unique and different as He is trying to show us how these things can be used for the good if we trust Him. God doesn't often change someone who's shy into an extrovert but rather, uses our existing traits. As in "grace building upon nature".  I once read an article online that equated shyness with selfishness and this horrified me a bit. Did he do some kind of formal study on this? No, it was a personal opinion. Selfishness (do any of us completely escape this?) seems to be a common denominator among fallen human beings so my guess is that this fellow must be:

An angel in disguise, maybe?

 Or perhaps he was pre-redeemed or something.

Lucky guy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hope for the Hopelessly Confused

"Grace builds upon nature, it does not destroy it."          St. Thomas Aquinas

In my last post I wrote about being "confused, disorganized, and scatterbrained", and if I'm being honest, there are a number of other seemingly less than wonderful traits that can be applied to me. I'm shy, introspective, anxious and fearful about many things. As a matter of fact, I am a "non-people person" who deeply loves people in general - I just am not overly fond of speaking much. Unless the subject is God. I would be perfectly happy in life if everyone on earth spoke about God constantly and if I ,myself, were allowed to do this. Unfortunately for me, such is not the case.

 (I've always wanted to use the words "Alas!" and "Alack!" and I'm not one to miss an opportunity like this one so here they come.)

ALAS and ALACK! Why do so few people want to talk about Jesus?

 I'm a pro at sneaking our Lord into a conversation. Don't sneeze around me if you aren't interested in God, because I can assure you - I'll take that "God bless you" and set off on a God spiel that would put St. Paul to shame ( you can add "mildly irreverent" to my list of less than desirable traits). I don't do this to be obnoxious. It's simply because - God is my favorite subject  and He is always on my mind. I mention this because it is this very gift (to me, it's a gift) that swallows up those many less than desirable traits that I have and that others may have. When I first came back to the Lord I think I assumed that God would rid me of certain aspects of my nature, but He never did. He took the very traits that I, and so many others, look down upon and used them for good. Is there anything positive about being confused, disorganized, or scatterbrained? How about being shy and anxious (and these are just the tip of the iceberg)?

These traits keep me VERY dependant on God. And not only that:

I have a tendency toward scrupulosity, though it has gotten much better over the years. At one point my scrupulosity got so bad that I would have panic attacks. What was it that helped me in this area? The confusion, disorganization, and the scatterbrainedness (by the way, those who are scatterbrained get to make up their own words and no one bats an eyelash). These traits also helped me with my fear and anxiety. Can you see where I'm going with this? I mentioned in my last posts about being unable to follow the "Rules" of the saints because of the traits I mentioned above. Here's the odd thing: When a scrupulous, fearful, and anxious person reads and tries to follow books like these....all hell breaks loose. The confusion, disorganization, and absentmindedness kept the scrupulosity from playing havoc with my psyche. The Lord certainly doesn't want on overly scrupulous person to put more rules into place so He confounds them to a degree and allows them to be baffled to protect them from the worse flaw of scrupulosity. The point,I guess, being that my inability to follow "Rules" is a blessing in disguise. The  confusion and disorganization kept me from putting these things into action, thereby saving me from doing a long list of things out of fear and helping me do small things out of love instead. Scrupulosity, as those who have suffered from it know, can make ones life a living hell. Love is a far better means of getting to know God.

So how can those who are disorganized and confused  have a productive spiritual life? By asking God to fill their hearts and minds with Him and by bringing Him into their everyday lives. You cook with him, clean with him, read with him, drive with him, breathe with him. You make, with God's grace, the present moment holy. I wrote about this in A Living Alleluia and a number of other posts. Compartmentalizing God and separating your life into periods of time for God and periods for yourself just doesn't work all that least not for those who are confused, disorganized, and scatterbrained. Bringing God into the things that you DO is better than ruminating on all the stuff that you DON'T do. This is helpful for those who suffer from depression or anxiety, too. Besides, God isn't with you in the stuff that you don't do, is He?

An example of this would be:
Doing dishes - this is something that has to be done every single day. I unite it with Jesus' work on earth and to make it more enjoyable I often sing psalms or prayers and offer the task and prayers for the souls in purgatory.
Vacuuming - I often offer this up to obtain extra help for those whose souls need a lot of cleaning up.
Listening to music - I change the lyrics to popular songs and I offer the new "remade" version of it up to obtain graces for those who sing the originals.
Brushing my teeth - I offer this one up for those with foul mouths of course (grin)!

The list goes on and on and I'm sure you get my drift. As silly as all this might sound to a theologian, God seems immensely pleased by things like this.

I hope this post has been a bit helpful to others who suffer from similar problems to mine. My main point here is to show that we don't have to be "fancy" to please the Lord. He is very easy to please. One doesn't have to build huge monasteries to please him - building a sand castle on the beach to bring joy into the heart of a child works just as well.

The words that have often been coming to mind during prayer lately are these - simplicity and authenticity. Keep it simple and be authentic.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Practicing Practicality - Help for the Confused, Disorganized and the Scatterbrained

I'm not the most organized person on the planet - not by a long shot. I seem to be quite incapable of following Orders and Rules. By Orders and Rules I don't mean laws and earthly stuff. I mean the type of Rules the saints write about that lead one to a holy life. I read the books and decide to put these wonderful teachings into place ...and then I promptly forget about most of them. Not on purpose. You see, the truth is:

I AM SCATTERBRAINED, CONFUSED, AND DISORGANIZED. May God bless all the well-put- together folks on the planet but...I am not one of them. I surround myself with notes and reminders and then forget where I put them. I LOSE things all the time. I put stuff in the wrong places. On any given day my husband may find ice cream in the cabinet or peanut butter in the freezer. I once forgot to take the cardboard off the bottom of a frozen pizza before cooking it and tossed it in the oven, paper and all. And the reason I had to cook a frozen pizza is because I forgot to take the meat for our meal out of the freezer.

Welcome to my world. I simply could not function without the grace of God. And I'm talking practical graces here. Oh, I like the fancy graces as much as the next person, who wouldn't? But the graces I have to pray for the most are the practical ones or I'd stumble around in circles all the time. I even pray for the grace of remembering God is always with me...or else I'd probably forget HIM, too. Don't think I'm exaggerating. I'm not.

God knows that I have tried to be more organized. If I'm being honest, I believe God thinks my bumbling efforts to please Him are rather sweet because He sure likes to ply me with many, many graces - both the ordinary ones I need so much and extraordinary ones that He sends as reminders of his amazing love. Perhaps He's following the "No Child Left Behind Rule" in my case. It doesn't seem to matter a great deal to Him whether I pass or fail. I am really beginning to understand that it's not WHAT we do but the LOVE we do it with that concerns Him. So I have my own "Rule" and though it may not be extremely productive in a physical worldly sense  it seems to please God spiritually and so in my next post I will share some practical ways for those who are confused, disorganized, and scatterbrained to "not get left behind".

God is both practical by nature and hugely IMPRACTICAL in his love for us. When his beloved children reach their hands out to him, He hears them and helps them.  His ways are not our ways though. Sometimes the things we want to do are only big in the eyes of the world. Look at the Little Flower, St. Therese - her holiness lay in her smallness. She did little things with great love. And she's a Doctor of the Church.  Not everyone is called to build huge monasteries for the Lord. (Obviously, some ARE called to do such things. Their sanctity, however, had nothing to do with the huge edifices they left behind but with the LOVE in which they built them. They did everything for God and they did it through grace.) We, too, can learn to do everything with great love. There is hope for the confused, the disorganized and the scatterbrained. We can take a page from God's book and do practical little tasks with an impractical love. To help us with this we start by asking the Lord for a constant awareness of Him in both our hearts and our minds. I'm not talking about a feel-good sense of his presence but a constant awareness of his presence whether one feels good or not.  This is a great gift and one He will not refuse those who ask for it with pure (or somewhat pure) intentions. The intention being to glorify God in our daily lives...whatever that daily life might be comprised of. And I really mean whatever. Whether you are a mother, a student, a retired person, or bedridden due to illness - God has sanctified every aspect of your existence in the person of Jesus Christ and by uniting your life with Jesus' life every person can become a saint. Why would we want to do this? Because for those who want to be with God:

Becoming a saint isn't's mandatory

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bared - pt 2

The Lord knows everything about us. Including secret motivations of the heart that WE aren't even aware of. Buried deep inside us are often hidden agendas that need to be brought to the surface for healing. Over the years the Lord has drawn my attention to many of these - which I then tried to correct with the help of his grace. Still, until the experience of feeling as if my soul was bared to the Lord I had no idea how deeply rooted they were and how much work still had to be done. I'm realizing now that my previous experience of this type of purgation left me thinking , "Well this can't go on forever. There has to be an end to it at some point." Problem being...I have no clue where that point is. For all I know, this latest healing could be the merest tip of the iceberg. Sigh.

I'm always wary during periods of deep consolation. And if I'm being honest...they make me a bit nervous. And rightly so (lol). As thankful as I am for these profound experiences of God's love, I know what's coming next. From past experience, at least in my case, it seems that the greater the consolation...the greater the purgation that follows.

Healing isn't always pretty. But then again, neither are the wounds which the Lord is seeking to heal. Here is a brief glimpse of my prayer life during this period of  spiritual healing:

Each morning, after getting my daughter off to school, I like to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I always ask St. Faustina's intercession (Padre Pio's, too) while I pray this chaplet and I join my prayers to theirs. Much to my surprise, during this time, I rarely could make it through an entire Chaplet without bursting into tears. Huge great gulping sobs that I was powerless to stop. Sometimes these tears would go on for an hour. I was both shocked and appalled by this. Sure, I've cried during prayer before but never like these huge upheavals. And after these storms I would feel wonderful! Each day I would think that, surely it was over, but it just went on and on. The more I cried, the better I felt. It was as if the Lord was taking huge burdens off my soul and filling those places with love. Then, one day, the tears just stopped.

Last month I attended another healing service. Much to my surprise, I was called into the aisle, prayed over, and Slain in the Spirit. Within a couple days the tears during prayer started up again, much to my chagrin, and just stopped a few weeks ago. It left me feeling very peaceful.

We are oh so very fragile in our humanity. At times we despise this fragility but I've come to see that it is this very frailty that moves God's heart so much. He understands our total dependence on Him though we may not understand it ourselves. His strength is made perfect in weakness.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."    2 Cor. 12:9

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bared - pt.1

Back in October I wrote a post titled, "What if things are worst than we think?" and I'd like to address this subject and give some of my reasons for writing it:

 Over the years one of my biggest prayers has been, "Lord, grant me the light to see the truth about myself and the truth about this world we are living in." I have always had this certainty that we are WAY off kilter these days and that our spiritual perspective is skewed. I've never known what to do with this sense of  the world being off course in a significant way, despite tackling the issue in prayer over and over and over again. "What is going on here, Lord?! Please show me the truth. I cannot live here like this knowing that things are so awry and yet being unable to pinpoint what troubles my spirit so much. Please, Lord! Help me!"

Well, I'm sure you've all heard the saying, "Be careful what you pray for because you just might get it. " I GOT IT alright and there's a teeny part of me that wishes I had never asked. I had no clue that it would cause me more suffering in some ways and that I would have a tough time coming to grips with it. I have spoken a lot about the physical healing I received but less so about the spiritual one. The spiritual healing actually began a month or two before the physical and continued for months afterward. I walked around feeling as if my soul was completely bared to the Lord. Like Eve stripped of her fig leaf. And it was painful. Excruciatingly so. Why? One of the reasons is that I had compromised with the world to a degree. After all, I had to live here. Though I have made tremendous progress over the years and this pleased the Lord, there are areas where I was still compromising the truth. In my defense, I often did this because I hate hurting people. There's so much suffering in the world today that I couldn't stand adding to anyone's pain. Even in my writing I would hold back to a degree for fear of causing anyone hurt. I  found myself "toning down" what the Lord laid on my heart to spare others pain or fear. This is one of the reasons I take time off regularly now, it gives me extra time in prayer and allows the Lord to give me an "adjustment" in my thinking. In posting about the serious times we live in, the key isn't to say "Well, okay, maybe things aren't so bad after all."  The key is to be truthful about this era and remind people that God is yearning to show them a better way. "Dying" to show us a better way is probably more appropriate when you consider that this is exactly what He did. It's about revealing his mercy without soft-soaping the reason why we are so in need of this mercy. The reason we need his mercy is SIN, plain and simple. You can't sugarcoat sin - though we certainly do try.

If the Lord had only revealed my own sinfulness I might have borne it better than I did. After all, this was something I could correct with his grace. What caused me tremendous grief was seeing the sin I was surrounded with in the world at the same time. I cannot force others to correct their own lives. Every person has the free will to choose right or wrong and, unfortunately, much of the world is on the wrong path right now. My consolation is the understanding that God is at work correcting this because He loves us very much.

The sense of being surrounded by sin (while still having to deal with your own) is extremely painful. I can't help but be glad that the Lord lifted this from me when it became too much to bear. But I know it's still there  hidden from my senses. As much grief as this has brought me, I can't disregard what a  tremendous grace this also is as it brings clarity about sin, especially ones that are hard to discern such as false compassion and the little (and big) ways in which we compromise the truth in our world today.  It doesn't take a great deal of discernment to see that this world has gone off path so I'm not absolutely sure why many people are unaware of this fact. Not only are many unaware, but many people EMBRACE the world today and consider the human race "enlightened".

Scary, our ability to deceive ourselves.

God have mercy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sabbath Moments - Extraordinary God

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. Sabbath Moments are those times when we live in the present moment and find the sacred in the ordinary. Many thanks to Colleen for hosting this meme! Here are some of those special moments:

Mass during the week - Nothing ordinary about this. This is an extraordinary grace and one I am very grateful for.I'm blessed that my parish has a noontime Mass. If there wasn't a noon Mass I'm not sure I'd be able to attend Mass during the week very often. I can't attend a morning Mass because I'm busy getting my daughter ready for school. There is something so special about weekday Mass. I usually go alone and am able to give my full attention to the Lord. Not so on the Sundays. Half the time I am distracted by my daughter sitting beside me. I'm sure those with children can relate! This week I was able to spend a lot of time with God, both at Mass and in prayer. I particularly enjoyed the Old Testament readings from the Book of Genesis. There is something so awe inspiring about meditating on the creation of the world!

Bible study - There's nothing like delving into the word of God! I've been going for a year and a half and we are currently studying the Holy Spirit, so I've been focusing in a special way on the work He does in us and through us.

Prayer - It leaves me awestruck that the Creator of the entire universe meets us in prayer. I'm not sure we'll ever really understand the immensity of this gift. I've had some incredible prayer moments this week and I am very thankful for this treasure. This is a gift that is given to all humans. To think that each of us has the ear of the Almighty. Mind boggling, isn't it?

 Ordinary people... extraordinary God.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hardened Hearts

The Holy Spirit works constantly in us and around us sustaining all life, bringing light and healing to our bodies and souls. Never does He rest. Love is unstoppable. Though at times His work is hidden from our intelligence, we can be assured that this healing is taking place. Provided that our hearts are open to Him to a degree. This is why repeated mortal sin is so dangerous. The human heart can become so hardened that it repels and refuses the love of God. God never gives up, though. Even when a human heart completely refuses Him entrance He continues to work on the soul through external circumstances. Archbishop Fulton Sheen called this "black grace". It is when God uses the negative experiences in a person's life to obtain a positive result. Like letting a person hit rock bottom so that he will see that he is on the wrong path. Often people will turn to God in their extreme misery.
I've had some experience with "black grace" and let me tell you - it's no picnic. Those who have read my blog know that I took the long way (maybe I should call it the wrong way) to God and spent many years stumbling over myself (and everyone else for that matter) before I turned to Him. My turning to Him was a result of this "black grace". Black grace is finding out the hard way where GOD IS NOT. The problem wasn't so much sin as it was sin that was not repented of. God knows we are weak and is quick to forgive but we must ASK for this forgiveness and be sorry for our sins. God is so merciful that those who aren't sorry can even ASK for the grace to be sorry for their sins. And He will give it to them. Amazing. There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome once we turn toward Him.

God is good.

I used to be terrified of the one unforgivable sin that's mentioned in the Bible - the sin against the Holy Spirit. For some reason I was sure that I had inadvertently committed this grave sin. Talk about frightening! This was shortly after my return to the Church and satan played upon this as much as possible. Laugh if you will, but I lived in horror for quite a while thinking that it was finished, all over for me. Sometimes things can get a bit rough for the newly converted, especially for those who are overly scrupulous. The same thing happened to Billy Graham. After having some bad thoughts about the Holy Spirit he was certain he was damned for all eternity. I wonder how many other people satan has tried to pull this trick on?

Just in case this has happened to anyone else:
The sin against the Holy Spirit is the continual refusal of God's mercy even until the point of death. It is final impenitence. So those of you who are still alive can breath a sigh of relief (lol) !

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Typhoid Mary (Aka Calamity Jane)

I'm back, folks. And I really missed blogging!

Why is this titled "Typhoid Mary..."? Let me explain. Typhoid Mary is one of the names I have often used for myself while addressing the Lord over the years. As in, "Lord, Typhoid Mary, here." Not so sure the Lord always appreciates my attempts at humor, but, there you have it. It was my "not so subtle" way of expressing my physical suffering to the Lord. I could never quite understand how one woman could be so sick all the time. During the years I had Myasthenia Gravis I would literally catch everything under the sun. Colds, flus, stomach name it and I can likely assure you that I've had it. Obviously my immune system wasn't functioning properly at the time because since being healed of the Myasthenia Gravis I rarely get viruses.

A blessing for sure.

Enter in - Calamity Jane. No joke. This is my new nickname. Knee problems, back and neck trouble. Well, those I am managing to deal with pretty well. But Plantar Fasciitis? Talk about foot woes! Who invented such a wicked thing? If I wanted to walk around feeling as though there were sharp rocks in my shoes all of the time I would have placed some in there!  "Lord, Calamity Jane here. Just WHAT is going on with my feet?! Ouch!"

Not one to miss an opportunity when it's placed right in front of me I started offering all these things up, of course. Never say that the Myasthenia Gravis didn't teach me well (lol)! I'm an old shoe (old hat?) at this. "Lord, I unite my feet with your suffering feet as you carried the Cross to Calvary. I offer this up so that souls who have walked away from you might turn toward you again." I like matching the suffering to the request. You know, like offering neck pain for the stiff-necked and back pain for those who are heavily burdened. It tickles my funny bone for some reason and I think it makes the Lord snicker. I could be wrong, though, so don't quote me on this ;)

And, yes, it has occurred to me that my neck is stiff because I am one of those stiff-necked people. Now, if you all would please excuse me while I hobble on down to the nearest confessional.